When you think of the great artists, especially the sculptors, you think of Donatello, Michelangelo, Rodin, Picasso, Da Vinci, Warhol and Degas. All of them men. When you think about the great chefs, not cooks, but world class chefs, especially those who run restaurants that have been awarded Michelin stars, doing a quick Google search lists a ship load of men, and a handful of women.
Now this is not one of those “men are better than women” stories because it stands to reason that there would be more famous male artists, especially in the classical periods of art as women were oppressed more than that are today, and I’m sure that the big business end of the chef world is dominated by males with their “boys’ club” attitudes. The reason why I am starting this post with introducing the “dominance” of men in these fields is because of something that has me perplexed; many parents, both mothers and father alike seem to think it’s something extraordinary when a dad makes a birthday cake for his kids as I do.
When men can build a rocket ship to take other men to the moon, why is so hard to picture another man building a rocket ship birthday cake for his kid’s birthday?
I am in the “why do we go out of our way to praise dads for doing the same things mums have always done?” camp. This might sound strange coming from someone who has spent the last three years talking about being a good dad and promoting that, but I have never said that the things that I have done in my tenure as a father is anything above and beyond what should be expected of me as a parent. I only talk about the things that dads wish they could do without having things thrown back in their face like walking into a baby change room full of mothers breastfeeding or changing their own kids without anyone judging them.
I also look forward to the day that dads don’t get asked if they’re babysitting their kids. But… that day will come, I know it. Well, I hope it will.
Since our boys have come along, between the two of them they have celebrated 12 birthdays and had 14 cakes; a few were to take to preschool to share with their classmates. My wife has made seven of those cakes, I have made six of them, and one cake was made by the play centre where we had the birthday party. I took over making the cakes when I saw that this task was taking it’s toll on my wife and she was stressing out about doing it more than having fun making them.
Just before our first born son’s third birthday, my wife wrote this post on her Facebook wall;
“When did making cakes for a kids birthday party become so complicated? I just got the September edition of Women’s Weekly and this Dorothy recipe is so much more intense than the Tiger one I got out of the 80’s Women’s Weekly one, is our society going nuts?” – my wife via Facebook 26th September 2011
That year she made two cakes for our son’s third birthday; a Dorothy the Dinosaur cake for his birthday party, and a red guitar in the shape of Murray Wiggle’s guitar. I assisted her making both of these, but she did the bulk of the decorating. Still, even though the cakes looked great, she was ready to murder someone because it was so stressful making it. But it wasn’t until after she almost had an aneurysm during the making of the second birthday cake for our second born that I knew that I had to step up to the plate.
These were the cakes that she had made up to that time…
The tiger cake because his nickname was Tiger before he was born.
The Dorothy the Dinosaur cake for his birthday party.
The Murray Wiggle red guitar for his third birthday to take to day-care.
The Gruffalo cake for his fourth birthday.
And for his sixth birthday, my wife made a soccer ball cake for his soccer themed party.
Then for our second born child, because his brother was obsessed with the Wiggles back then, the youngest got the Big Red Car for his first birthday.
And every kid needs a cake with their birthday’s number, right?
It was after our youngest son’s second birthday party that I decided to take over making the birthday cakes. There were a few reasons why I decided to do it. In no particular order, the reasons included the fact that whilst my wife was happy to mix the cake mixture, she asked me to keep an eye on the cakes baking because she gets a bit anxious with their progress. It’s common that people do this when baking cakes; one doesn’t want to under cook them, but no one wants to over cook them as well.
Whilst she did 95% of the decorating with all the cakes she made, there were a few things that stressed her out and she asked me to assist her with these things. And possibly the number one reason, if I’m being totally honest about it, whilst she is great at getting out a thousand cake making apparatus and making a mess of a thousand bowls, mixers and utensils, for some reason, with all the effort she put in, she had hardly any energy left to clean up. As a result, it was me who ended up doing all the dirty work (literally) and I wasn’t getting any of the credit for all my hard work. So, I had to step up…
My first effort was our first born son’s fifth birthday cake for his Ninjago themed party.
The following year my wife made our eldest child his soccer ball cake as I already shared above. Her reason for doing this is because she wanted to do it as his whole kindergarten class and their parents was coming to celebrate this party, and I think she didn’t want to be the bad mum (you know, like in that movie of the same name).
The following year, for his seventh birthday, I went back to making his cake. Since he had become a massive Star Wars fan since his previous birthday, a Star Wars themed cake was always going to be high on his request list and I made a giant version of the Lego General Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Clone Wars series.
The second cake that I made is actually the one that I had the most fun making, and to me, it’s my finest work. Our youngest son loves the show Giggle and Hoot on the Australian television network ABC4Kids. Hoot is a lovable owl puppet with a really funny voice, and a crows favourite in our household. The photo of this cake doesn’t do it justice as its three dimensions were so much more realistic seeing it in the flesh. The eyes were half spheres of pure icing, and the kids that ended up eating them at his party surely woke up the next day with sugar remorse.
I used the cake that I made for our youngest son’s fourth birthday as the inspiration for my post The Cheaters Guide To Making Fancy Birthday Cakes For Kids. This has proved to be a very popular post where I discuss how the cakes do not have to be perfect, but the kids will love it if you take the time and put in the effort. I have had mums and dads alike tell me that this has inspired them to make a fancy cake rather than a plain, boring round or square with a bit of icing on top.
One cake that I skipped over was the first one that I actually made for our eldest son to take with him to day-care when he was two. As I had won a birthday party for him at a play centre and the package I won came with a birthday cake included, we didn’t go to the effort that year. Instead, for his day-care party, I made him this basic cake.
I was never happy that a basic cake with chocolate buttons was the only cake I made for him which is why I had to become the principal cake maker, or at the very least, take it in turns with my wife to make them.
For his cake this year, our youngest was given the Women’s Weekly cake book to look through and pick a cake for me to make. For those who haven’t heard of this book, this is what I wrote about it on my facebook page back in Febraury 2015.
“The boys are obsessed with this book at the moment. They’ve been reading it together every day for a week picking out which cakes they want me to make for their next 6 birthdays for one, next 9 birthdays for the other. They even took it to the gym this morning. Yes, they read about cakes while I worked my butt off. The Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book is an institute and deserves the title of Australia’s Most Famous Children’s Cake Book. Released in 1980, 35 years later, kids still love these designs.”
Although there are heaps of designs throughout the cake, it’s the second last one in the book, and the one that graces the cover of the book that he picked. Although my wife was stressing out that I wouldn’t have it ready in time, I didn’t start baking the cakes until the Saturday morning with his party being on the Sunday morning. My wife was also stressed out because her sister along with her husband and their four children were staying at our house for the first time in ages and she thought that if I didn’t have the cake finished before they got here, I would be able to finish it at all.
After the cakes cooled down, and with some of the cakes being bought at the store because the recipe suggested that the jam rolls would be too hard to make (I’ll agree with that), I cut out the shapes that I needed and placed them on the base that I made from a piece of metre long wood covered in green sticky school book covering, and ice-cream sticks for the tracks.
As my wife sees clients at our house on Saturdays, one of her clients saw me putting the finishing touches to the cake to get it to the stage where it could be iced. It was her comment along with another comment from a friend of my wife that inspired this post. The woman that saw the cake at this stage and saw me doing it thought that it was really good that a dad was making the cake. Like really good…
Again, I have to ask the question; why do we go out of our way to praise dads for doing the same things mums have always done? Dads are parents just like mums, only with a penis… and no boobs… well, some of us at least.
The fact of the matter is, the same way that women can do any job that a man can do, the same can be said that, except for the three things I pointed out in my post A Short List Of Things Dads Will Never Be Able To Do…Or Will They?, dads can do everything mums can do.
With my wife’s best friend having a birthday get-together of her own, and my sister-in-law being a last minute invitee to her soirée seeing that she was in town that night (my brother-in-law and sister-in-law live two hours north of Sydney) it left us two dads to feed, bath, dress, clean the teeth and put six kids to bed. And then once that was done, at about 8:30pm that night I started making the icing to decorate the cake. In between doing other things like packing the dishwasher and cleaning as I went, two hours later, the cake was done.
Once again, I know it’s not perfect, but once I loaded up the step-by-step photos of how I made it to my Facebook page and tagged my wife in, the praise from friends and family came thick and fast. I was happy that everyone seemed to like what I had made and I knew that the birthday boy would be suitably impressed come the morning, but it was another comment made by one of my wife’s friends that annoyed me a little. She obviously didn’t see that I posted the photos and wrote that I had just finished making it when she left a comment telling my wife how good she is at making cakes and truly has a hidden talent.
And it’s not because I was hoping to have a tonne of kudos come my way that this annoyed me, but the way I saw it is that here is another person who just assumed that the mum would be the one who made the cake, not the dad.
Since starting this blog, and since joining Facebook groups for dads, and ones that have both parents in them I have been amazed to see how many households are still holding on to the old traditions of mum does the chores and looks after the kids, dads is the breadwinner and handyman only.
Some of these are cases of the dad being old school and leaving everything to do with the childrearing and household chores to the mum, but many times I have had other dads tell the groups that they would love to be more involved but the mother of their kids wants to do it all. There are plenty of dads who have said that they would love to organise the party, make the cakes, plan the holidays, pick the children’s clothes, do the Christmas shopping, make more meals and do the groceries but their partner won’t let them.
Just like there are plenty of men whose fathers have told them that certain jobs are for women and the should retain the role of the man of the house, there would be plenty of women whose mothers are getting into their ear to remind them of their place in the household too. And then there would be plenty of cases where the mum just wants to have the control of these things because she simply wants things done her way.
I say that it’s time that we break down these walls that hold us in the archaic stereotypical confines of gender roles, and dads making their children birthday cakes could be, for some, the first step into showing the world that the “World’s Best Dad” coffee mug they got last Father’s Day is more than just lip service.
So come on dads, get out there and make your kids a cake. It’s not hard. Go back and read my post about how easy it is to do and how you don’t have to be perfect.
Just do it.
Now if only Nike made a cool apron…
Dads, have you ever made a birthday cake for your kids? Share the photos in the comments. I’d love to see them. And mums, don’t forget to share this and tag your partner in so they know that dads CAN make birthday cakes too.